David Bouchier


David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost twenty years. After coming to the United States in 1986 he continued to teach and to publish a regular humor column in The New York Times regional edition.  He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996. His latest book of essays, Peripheral Vision, was published in 2011. His other books include A Few Well Chosen Words, The Song of Suburbia, The Cats and the Water Bottles, The Accidental Immigrant and Writer at Work. He lives in Stony Brook, New York, with his wife who is a professor at Stony Brook University, and two un-musical cats.

Courtesy of fancycrave.com via Pexels

Last week I had a haircut, not at my usual Long Island barbershop but at a ladies’ hairdressing salon in the French village where we were staying. The reasons are too complicated to explain, take my word for it, but the young proprietor Muriel had agreed to give me a high-speed low-cost trim between her more conventional clients. The other customers were all ladies, their heads covered in lather and exotic chemicals, who naturally disapproved of my intrusion into this temple of beauty. Fortunately, due to the strong local accent, I had no idea what they might be saying.          

The famous travelers of the past like Lord Byron, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Gertrude Bell were essentially solitary. That’s how I started out in my teens, puttering around Europe on a motorcycle – alone not because of my noble independent spirit but because nobody would ride on the back. Now we travel in crowds, sometimes crowds of two or three thousand when a big cruise ships comes in. There’s no “escape,” whatever the Sunday Supplements tell you, and precious little wonder or magic in that kind of travel.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Everybody knows what to expect on the Fourth of July. There will be flags, barbecues, picnics, concerts, parades, fireworks, political grandstanding – and the Post Office will be closed. In a world that is so full of uncertainties it's good to be sure of something. Every nation has some such annual festival – Polish National Day, May 3, is marked with folk dances, traditional costumes and lots of food.

Detail of oil painting by John William Waterhouse / Google Art Project

A steady stream of advertising material pours into our mailbox, and yours too I’m sure. It has been estimated that the average American, whoever he or she is, sees five thousand advertisements every day, so it is hard verging on impossible for advertisers to capture anybody’s attention. One sneaky trick is to put your name in a prominent position on the printed material. Nobody can resist seeing their own name in print. An example came the other day, a flashy card with the bold headline: “Time for new makeup, David?” Well, I thought contemplating my face in the mirror, it probably is time.

Courtesy of Pixabay

I have always admired and envied the ability to learn languages. The English language is hard enough, with its half million words, weird grammar, and odd pronunciations. Other languages are worse. When we try to master a new language we are thrust all the way back to our inarticulate early childhood, and we feel helpless. I’ve been to many places where I couldn’t understand a word anybody said: Russia, Hungary, Greece, Scotland. It’s humiliating.